Researchers at the University of Warwick, London, have discovered why a newly found cholesterol seems to be ‘ultra-bad’, increasing risks of heart diseases, a report on the university website said.

The research discovered the ‘ultra-bad’ cholesterol, known as MGmin-low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is common in people with type 2 diabetes, appears to be ‘stickier’ than normal LDL. This makes it more likely to stick to the walls of arteries. When the LDL attaches to artery walls it forms ‘fatty’ plaques’ that cause coronary heart disease (CHD) which claims more than 80,000 lives every year.

The researchers, Dr Naila Rabbani, Associate Professor of Experimental Systems Biology at Warwick Medical School and Dr Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, made the discovery by developing human MGmin-LDL in the laboratory and later studying its features and connection with other important bodily molecules.

“We’re excited to see our research leading to a greater understanding of this type of cholesterol, which seems to contribute to heart disease in diabetics and elderly people,” said Rabbani. “The next challenge is to tackle this more dangerous type of cholesterol with treatments that could help neutralize its harmful effects on patients’ arteries.”

The team found that MGmin-LDL is created by addition of sugar groups to ‘normal’ LDL, called glycation which makes LDL smaller and denser. By changing its structure the sugar groups expose new regions on the surface of the LDL. These regions probably stick to the artery walls which then create a similar process by which fatty plaques are created narrowing down the arteries and reducing blood circulation, the researchers explained.

“This study shows how the make-up and the shape of a type of LDL cholesterol found in diabetics could make it more harmful than other types of LDL. The findings provide one possible explanation for the increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes,” said Amoils.

The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and was published in the Diabetes journal.